Double Feature: A Simple Favor (2018) & Dumplin’ (2018)

Next double feature is here and we’re doing a 2018 film double feature. Honestly, it was fairly unplanned since this one was more for the focused on the female cast on hand. The first is a dark comedy thriller A Simple Favor and the second is Netflix coming of age comedy Dumplin’.

Let’s check it out!

A Simple Favor (2018)

Director: Paul Feig

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, Henry Golding, Dustin Milligan

Stephanie is a single mother with a parenting vlog who befriends Emily, a secretive upper-class woman who has a child at the same elementary school. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie takes it upon herself to investigate. – IMDB

* Originally published on Movies and Tea – Friday Film Club*

Based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, A Simple Favor is a dark comedy thriller about a mommy vlogger who befriends one of the other moms who ends up mysteriously disappearing after asking her to pick her son after school. Using the power of her followers and as a form of journal, she tries to track down her friend and eventually find out what happened to her. 

Starring in the main roles as the mommy vlogger Stephanie is Anna Kendrick while her elegant friend Emily is portrayed by Blake Lively. A lot of the charm of the movie is how it is executed as a fluctuation between the past interactions and the context of their friendship and how their conversations expose their characters, especially that of Stephanie, both having elements that break out of how they are perceived by the people around them while contrasting it with the present search after her disappearance and eventual death which leads to Stephanie trying to figure out what happened while being caught up in it herself. 

Anna Kendrick has always been quite a flexible character as she started off in Pitch Perfect and takes up comedic roles like Mr. Right and now, this one takes it one step further as she catches those dark comedy points really great especially in her dialogue which brings in a bit of embarrassment and unexpected elements that brings out some laugh but still keeps the movie fairly suspenseful. Blake Lively’s Emily is a blunt character, not the conventional polite mom but a powerhouse elegant girl who says what comes to mind and feels secretive but also manipulative which makes her disappearance feel not unexpected but rather more of a mystery of what secrets she is hiding. 

A Simple Favor has the same feeling and tells the kind of story like Gone Girl but perhaps a different angle as it takes a more dark comedy angle while the other is more of a pure thriller. The twist and the story/script all work pretty well as it watches a character feel like she is a naive small town girl just trying to do the best mom she can be even though in reality, both female characters are really  not as perfect as they seem to be whether in their perspectives or the people around them. Not to mention that it has a lovely soundtrack. Its not exactly very complex but it has a good balance between having a decent twist and mystery to fulfill the thriller element while also delivering some great dark comedy. A Simple Favor is simply entertaining and fun. 

Dumplin’ (2018)

Director: Anne Fletcher

Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, Odeya Rush, Maddie Baillio, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Luke Benward, Harold Perrineau, Ginger Minj, Sam Pancake, Hilliary Begley

Willowdean (‘Dumplin’), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town. – IMDB

A true Netflix gem is what Dumplin’ is. I can’t say how many times that I’ve watched it and rewatched this film at this point. There’s so much to love from the coming of age story to hitting those comedy points really well and even giving me that extra push from the Hideaway location with Dolly Parton drag queens that made me go and watch Rupaul’s Drag Queen because I’ve never seen it before. Of course, that’s besides the point. On that note, I don’t listen to Dolly Parton a lot nor am I mega knowledgeable about her music except for the really popular ones but I love the Dolly Parton soundtrack that it uses. Even though I don’t know about her sayings either, the movie puts a lot of focus on all the positive message that she delivers which becomes an encouraging element for Willowdean’s character.

What makes coming of age films great are usually the different types of relationships including that with facing up to yourself. For Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), the story is from her point of view as she deals with a feeling that her mother (Jennifer Aniston) is ashamed of her body because she prides herself on being the 1991 Miss Teen Bluebonnet and her beauty pageant which makes her make fun of the pageant girls. At the same time, it brings in the element of friendship as she ends up having an argument with her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush) that leads her to making friends with 2 other girls, Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus) and Millie (Maddie Baillio) that are not the typical pageant girls in the heart of breaking the norm. Its all about finding the courage and doing the impossible for them as they realize all the work that goes into participating in the pageant and the shining points of the pageant as they describe is a “team sport”. Then there’s the extension to finding courage and committing to being different much like Willowdean’s Aunt Lucy taught her and the friends she makes at the Hideaway help her remember. The whole Hideaway segments and the pageant segments are some of the best parts of the film.

If there was one thing that seemed to not fit so well was probably the love interest character that didn’t seem to be needed. It was there to emphasize her discomfort with herself and that she had to come to terms with herself. At the same time, while the character of Bo (Luke Benward) was okay overall, he didn’t exactly add a whole lot to the film itself. The movie was much more about the girls and ladies than anything else. Plus, its a different sort of movie that shows this pageant being filled with girls who don’t have it out for each other but are actually rather nice about the whole thing.

FNC 2020: Cocoon (2020)

Cocoon (Kokon, 2020)

Director (and writer): Leonie Krippendorff

Cast: Lena Urzendowsky, Jella Haase, Lena Klenke, Elina Vildanova, Franz Hagn, Kim Riedle

One long, hot summer, 14-year-old Nora spends most of her time with her sister and her sister’s best friend. While the two older girls run around with the crowd of boys who flock around them, shy Nora stays meekly in the background. When she meets anti-conformist Romy, a girl unlike anyone she’s ever met, unexpected desires take hold of her. – Festival du Nouveau Cinema

Cocoon is a 2020 German coming of age film about a 14 year old girl who starts figuring out who she is despite facing the different voices around her as she hangs out with her sister and her friends through an exceptionally hot summer. Cocoon feels similar to movies like Call Me By Your Name and last year’s FNC movie Mickey and the Bear as she confronts both her sexual orientation, first love and change in her own body while having some of her own family issues to deal with both her sister and her mother. Cocoon is two fold as she relates to the caterpillar that she has in a jar which over the course of the film eventually disappears and reappears as a butterfly by the end. It creates a nice parallel of her emotions over this snippet of her life as she toughens up to embrace who she is and be brave enough to walk her own path.

For main character Nora, its a slice of life about this hot summer in the neighborhood and city where she lives. She narrates segments of videos from her cellphone that recaps what happens and her feelings all shown in vertical phone clips perspective and acts like chapters to this summer. She starts off as something of a wallflower as she lurks in the background, having to follow her sister, Jule and her friends because of her mother being rather uncaring for them. Her sister and her friends are fawning over boys and how to lose weight to look like models and generally be cool and slightly reckless. For her, she’s changing alone and has no one to talk to about this when she meets Romy, a girl that she starts to have a friendship/relationship with but with resistance from her sister but opens up her feelings for the first time to be herself and accept her differences.

In many ways, Nora is a great coming of age character as she doesn’t just face finding herself but the movie also makes a great effort in telling about her struggles at home especially when faced with being the one that seems be okay with her mother’s lack of caring in comparison to her sister that seems to do a lot of things that tries to get her mother’s attention and she is there to pick up the pieces. It showcases her multifaceted relationships in all of its dysfunctions: parent-child, sibling and sisterhood, friendship and especially with herself. Lena Urzendowsky portrays Nora in a wonderful way that gives her quite a change as she moves from her introvert and outsider in social settings from the beginning to the end where she becomes comfortable in her own skin despite the things she overcomes throughout the film. The story isn’t as simple and normal but in a lot of the characters and their underlying traits are portrayed in their actions shot through only the eyes of Nora.

I’ve always had some issues with German films especially in their pacing elements but Cocoon is really good as the execution of the phone snippets as chapter breaks helps a lot in drawing Nora’s inner feelings with the quiet and introvert character that breaks out of her own cocoon through the process. The parallels are done well and the story is well-written that makes it all come together nicely.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl
by: Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan.. But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to. Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind? – Goodreads

Playing on the world of fanfiction, Fangirl highlights a college girl who finds solace in her protected world of her twin sister and her popularity as her Internet self of writing fan fiction on a Harry-Potter-esque sort of world except its called Simon Snow. College brings its own challenges and a different perspective of what she needs to embrace as she slowly steps out of her comfort zone because of her sister’s desire to have her own experiences. New friends, new environment, new expectations and somehow Cath is still holding onto what makes her comfortable and its weird for those around her. This is pretty much a coming of age story and strip it away from its fanfiction premise, its actually fairly common however, Rainbow Rowell gives Cath as well as the other characters very contrasting personalities that complement each other really well.

Perhaps where the story structure seems a little less flowing is in the Simon Snow segments that get sandwiched in between the chapters, which are short and mostly draw some kind of parallel to the reality on hand but because its so similar to Harry Potter, Simon Snow itself almost feels like a fanfiction. Putting that aside, the world of fanfiction is portrayed fairly well and in the sense, those side segments of Simon Snow fiction from its actual author contrasting with those as fanfiction pieces written by Cath which draws the key element of what fanfiction is and is what brings the unique elements to the story of how Cath crafts her version of Simon Snow’s life on the foundation of something built by someone else’s world.

What is the best draw of Fangirl does go down to the witty cast of characters. Cath has this sassy attitude that is unique to her introvert self with her own set of baggage stemming from her family and in contrast to a clash and friction in her relationship with her twin Wren as well as slowly stepping out of her shell with her roommate and boyfriend who both also have quite distinctive personalities. The dialogue written between these characters are entertaining and colorful and a lot of fun, packed with laugh out loud moments. It highlights a lot of the different types of people that we meet in college as the world expands and there are different perspectives on things that were once familiar. It looks into different elements of Cath’s life that highlights why she is the way she is.

With a fun writing style and some well-crafted characters as well as dynamic power of dialogue that brings out each of these characters even more, Fangirl is a fun little dive. While striping away its fanfiction background, its really a fairly normal sort of coming of age story, there is still something engaging about it that gives it that unique light. I’m not quite sure whether its the fanfiction since that didn’t play too much into reading experience but more the fact that its the way that Rainbow Rowell crafts her story and the way she writes it that lifts this story to another level. I do however think that the first two-thirds of the story is a little better written than the last act that seemed to fall a little more flat. Overall, its still pretty great.

Double Feature: 47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019) & Little Women (2019)

Next double feature is here as I worked through some more rentals. The first is the sequel of 47 Meters Down called 47 Meters Down: Uncaged. The second is Greta Gerwig’s directed adaptation of book of the same name, Little Women. Let’s check it out!

47 Meters Down: Uncaged (2019)

47 meters down uncaged

Director: Johannes Roberts

Cast: Sophie Nélisse, Corinne Foxx, Brianne Tju, Sistine Rose Stallone, John Corbett, Nia Long, Brec Bassinger, Davi Santos, Khylin Rhambo

Four teen girls diving in a ruined underwater city quickly learn they’ve entered the territory of the deadliest shark species in the claustrophobic labyrinth of submerged caves.- IMDB

Let’s start off that this is pretty much a new story from 47 Meters Down. For those who have seen 47 Meters Down, there really isn’t any room to do a sequel with those characters or that storyline. While shark movies are rather entertaining and I did enjoy 47 Meters Down in several aspects and premise, lets just say that a sequel wasn’t exactly something that was expected or needed but it happened.

47 Meters Down: Uncaged takes a new perspective. This time around, it goes into a cave diving adventure where these four girls go to explore the underwater Mayan ruins but it ends up trapping them in after a sudden realization that there were blind sharks living in these caves. Its something of an opposite experience than 47 Meters Down. Uncaged has a lot more sharks and while there are some questionable CG effects like the screaming fish, the blind sharks is a fairly fresh concept. Sharks hunting only by sound and being able to blend into the background of the dark murky waters that the girls find them in. The whole course of finding their way out and having a lot of cast gives the movie a higher death count, more people to be endanger. With that said, its a faster paced movie and a much more simple and direct sort of element. It takes some of the good premise elements of the first like survival with decreasing oxygen tanks to the light elements and flares versus sharks and applies to a bigger scope.

If you look at the cast, its not exactly a well-known one. However, there are some second generation actresses like Jamie Foxx’s daughter Corinne Foxx and Sylvester Stallone’s daughter Sistine Rose Stallone. The characters themselves are linear and one dimensional. There is a little bit of family elements here as two step-sisters face this labyrinth together to try and get out. There’s also John Corbett who stars as one of the girl’s dad who is the one who is exploring these caves as their current project and the reason that they are in this location in the first place.

Overall, its an okay shark movie. Its paced quicker with a lot more sharks than its predecessor. Its more direct and less psychological. There are some tension built from this specific location of underwater caves that also brings in the frightening feeling of claustrophobia every once in a while. The sharks have really good designs of their scarred body probably from navigating the tight spaces in the area and how they have biologically changed because of being trapped in this dark location for such a long time. The general concept makes enough sense even if some of the computer graphics isn’t done well but Johannes Roberts does get some nice cinematography in that makes up for a part of that.

Little Women (2019)

Little Women

Director (and adapted screenplay): Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Tracy Letts, Bob Odenkirk, James Norton, Louis Garrel, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep

Jo March reflects back and forth on her life, telling the beloved story of the March sisters – four young women, each determined to live life on her own terms. – IMDB

One of the classics that I haven’t read before is Little Women. I have a general idea of the source material but I’ve never actually read the novel nor have I seen the 1994 film adaptation. This viewing is solely based on this movie as its own film. With that said, Little Women is set up in a structure that I rather like. In one way, its main focus is on Jo March, played by Saoirse Ronan and her determination to be a writer despite not quite able to accept the criticism but willing to sacrifice to have her work published anonymously. Its has something of an (semi-autobiographical nature where who we see as Jo March feels like she’s telling her story while also having this breaking reality moments at times where we see how things actually went and the way the story is told based on the pressures from her editor and whatnot.

Little Women is about the different girls in each of the March sisters who seek something different in life. They each grow up together and much like any siblings have their own issues and one sacrifices more than the other. As they grow up, their age and being able to do things the others can’t do all come into play as all kinds of values come into play. Through the actions and decisions of each of the sisters, it crafts each of their characters. The focus is rather heavily on the sisters finding their value and what they each value that leads them in different paths. Certain things break them apart and yet other things will bring them together. In the path of growing up, they sacrifice things and other things pass them by and some just fade into regret and moving on. Its all part of life. Something about Greta Gerwig’s structure for this story works really well. Its a subtle and endearing story about this sisterhood. While some characters fall into the background, they each have their own purpose whether its the mother, played brilliantly by Laura Dern that teaches her daughters to be selfless and willing them to have a mind of their own or its the youngest sister who has a dream but with her illness brings together the family in the end. There’s something that pieces each of these events together.

The focus is a lot on Jo March, Amy March and their neighbor/family friend, Laurie played by Timothée Chalamet. It seems that Greta Gerwig sure loves to work with Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet and always sees them as the impossible pairing. Their relationship/friendship is something of the other way around from Lady Bird (review), which I thought was pretty genius to cast them and give their characters an opposing sort of character and giving these two a nice dynamic. Little Women is a pretty great adaptation that executed really well and all the characters portrayed incredibly charming and with a good deal of depth and purpose. Its a great coming of age period drama.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films? Thoughts?

The Half Of It (2020)

The Half of It (2020)

the half of it

Director (and writer): Alice Wu

Cast: Leah Lewis, Alexxis Lemire, Daniel Diemer, Becky Ann Baker, Catherine Curtin, Collin Chou, Wolfgang Novogratz

When smart but cash-strapped teen Ellie Chu agrees to write a love letter for a jock, she doesn’t expect to become his friend – or fall for his crush. – IMDB

In the mass of Netflix Originals that gets released in a year, every once in a while, we find some hidden gems. While coming of age films are rather formulaic in many ways, The Half of It is unique in its own way as it packs in a lot of layers of teen issues altogether as well as immigrant family struggles. All these elements combines with a balanced execution focus on coming of age mixed in with bits of romance and friendship. If we think about this in similarities, the story here is similar to Sierra Burgess is a Loser (review), except you trade out physical insecurities with  some other issues like LGBT and immigrant family issues. The things that stand out in Sierra Burgess actually work really well here as well, like the friendship element between Ellie and Paul as well as her interaction with her father. 

The Half of It really works because of its cast that brings to life these well-written characters. Each of them presenting their different characteristics in a believable and charming manner, even behind their many awkward moments which adds to the humor. Leah Lewis plays the main character of Ellie Chu who keeps to herself and breaks her rules when she decides to help “edit” (but really write) a love letter for Paul (Daniel Diemer), a jock with rather undesirable writing skills, because she coincidentally needed the money. And yet, sometimes these perfect coincidences presents itself as a blessing in disguise when she bonds this unexpected friendship both with Paul and as the voice for Paul to appeal to Aster (Alexxis Lemire). Its the awkwardness moments that work well here whether its Ellie and Paul or when Paul interacts with Aster on their little dates. At the same time, like mentioned before, one of the highlights is between Ellie and her father (Collin Chou) who usually is known for his villainous and action roles in Asian cinema. The father element plays a decent part in the story and it makes this story always centered around Ellie which makes it truly her coming of age story and never loses sight of that.

The Half Of It might seem like a familiar tale in its execution but it also is unique because of the different issues that it tackles. Perhaps its because its about a Chinese immigrant family that it relates better to myself that it also strikes a chord and the family element here plays out really well. Or perhaps its the portrayal of Ellie Chu that really is quite appealing even though she doesn’t seem to find the same confidence in herself but actually finds it as she confides in Paul while helping him subconsciously building their friendship. While there is an unrequited love element there and teen romance that never quite gets a lot of resolution, it seems like the story is never quite about that but actually manages to create a fairly positive and sweet ending despite of it. All these elements makes The Half Of It such a charming coming of age movie. While I’ve never seen Alice Wu’s previous work Saving Face, I do hope that it won’t take her over a decade before making a new movie as she has quite a decent vision as a director and writer that it would be interesting to see what other stories she will tell in the future.

TV Binge: On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

Check out TV binge for previous 2 seasons below:

Season 1
Season 2

On My Block (Season 3, 2020)

on my block s3

Creators: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Jason Genao, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jessica Marie Garcia, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Paula Garces, Reggie Austin, Ada Luz Pla

A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. Dealing with the danger of getting their friend out of a gang and friends turning into romance, danger is constant. – IMDB

Picking up right after the shocking ending of the four friends getting kidnapped off the streets, On My Block Season 3 starts off with them kidnapped to see Cuchillos, the head of the Santos, who end up thanking them for getting rid of The Prophets and then of course, just like expected, sending them on a much more dangerous task: finding Ricky who is probably not dead (contrary to what is believed). This mission is one that they not only have a time limit with some serious consequences if they don’t achieve it but at the same time, one that they must tackle without anyone else knowing but having to find somewhere to start despite their own arguments among themselves and get back together to face it together with the help of Spooky and Jasmine.

on my block

The writers of this show actually did a really great choice at this point as while the four friends, Cesar (Diego Tinoco), Monse (Sierra Capri), Ruby (Jason Genao) and Jamal (Brett Gray), are all still our main set of characters, they decided to write in much more depth continuing on from Season 2 for Spooky (Julio Macias) and more importantly, Jasmine (Jessica Marie Garcia) who turns out to be so much more than where she started in Season 1. Its knowing when their problems can’t be the only things in the picture that it gives the show a lot more boost with those two as it turns into a team of five tackling this with a little outside/family help from Spooky. There are still a lot of the familiar problems carrying forward between the four. Monse and Cesar are tackling their relationship and whether they should be together because of bad decisions and other factors as well as family issues; Ruby still has a lot of inner troubles from the trauma he experienced but in this one, he’s also realizing his problems has caused real financial problems for his parents while Jamal tackles girl problems and figuring out his priorities. While Monse used to be the glue for the group, surprisingly, everyone has some healing and Jasmine ends up really getting them straight on what’s more important and how to set their problems aside and work together, even if by the end, things don’t quite work out as intended, which will make Season 4 an interesting change in events for these characters, if it happens. The new group dynamic did give a good boost.

on my block season 3

Another great writing is really giving a lot of balance to the characters. Its a quick 8 episodes every season but getting to see equal doses of these characters for their own quirks and problems is the first step to lead to a realization that this group is not as solid as it used to be in Season 1 especially as they grow up and face more problems. In this one, this mission takes them on some crazy locations and meets some funny and at times, over the top, people that truly give this season a lot of charm. Its the process of this mission that makes more of a bang than how it ends, very in tune with how this show does manage to give it a humorous mostly because of not understanding the seriousness of the situation right from the first season. In that sense, the tone here is darker but still has that balance of light-hearted and awkward humor to make it a fun watch especially in the case of Jamal and Ruby who come together in this one a lot and really come up with some crazy ideas. Together they can make all kinds of bad logic work out in their minds that its okay and that is rather incredible despite things usually not going the way they expected.

On My Block S3

With that said, while the whole series does move fairly quickly and is overall, a fun trip with roles like Jamal, Jasmine, Ruby really having some shining moments as well as giving a lot more for Spooky to do that makes him such a deeper character that would be nice see further how it all plays out in the next season. While its not exactly a downfall, the more lackluster characters do go to Cesar and Monse mostly because they seem to always revolve in the same problems since end of Season 1 to this season and they  have the same struggles, which gives them less character development than before. With 8 episodes though, its definitely a bingeworthy show for fans of the show.

Double Feature: Pitch Perfect 3 (2017) & What A Girl Wants (2003)

Welcome to the next double feature! This time is a rather female character driven combo with the Barden Bellas final hurrah in Pitch Perfect 3 and Amanda Bynes in What A Girl Wants. It seems like a decent pairing, don’t you think?

Pitch Perfect 3 (2017)

pitch perfect3

Director: Trish Sie

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Ester Dean, Hana Mae Lee, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, John Lithgow, Matt Lanter, Guy Burnet, DJ Khaled, Ruby Rose

Following their win at the world championship, the now separated Bellas reunite for one last singing competition at an overseas USO tour, but face a group who uses both instruments and voices. – IMDB

Pitch Perfect 3 has really just been riding on the success of its first film (review) but for myself, it feels pretty much like the Step Up franchise. In Pitch Perfect’s case, its all about the acappella musical elements and the charming cast of Bellas that come with it. Pitch Perfect 3 is a farewell movie and while the story itself is rather disposable as its yet another competition that they need to try to win but this time, its a little different because its about finding closure for all of the main players: Becca, Chloe, Amber, Amy as they move on with their lives from this family to each seeing those problems that make them who they are. Its a bit messy and brushed over quickly for all those involved, mostly because for most of them they never had tackled personal problems for these characters.

Looking at the cast here, which retains itself from the Barden Bellas of Pitch Perfect 2 (review) but as they exit their lives after university and the many struggles of finding their own identity and purpose after their success, each have their own path right from the start and of course, their own issues that make them want to go on this final hurrah for them to compete again together. In many ways, Becca has gone full circle from the beginning to the end of this film where she finally finds success in what she wanted at the start in some form but now its her loyalty to the Bellas that holds her back, a bit of a reverse situation. Bellas is a wonderful little group of friends as they are unique in their different ways and different backgrounds, nothing more apparent than in this one, even if it does piece it together oddly.

Of course, aside from the Bellas, we still have the supporting characters including the staple characters of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins characters who have that additional comedic relief. On top of that adding in some other talent from DJ Khaled playing himself and a few side characters with Matt Lanter as the Bellas military guide and something of a bodyguard. The other groups competing for that one spot include Ruby Rose playing the lead singer of Evermoist. I remember that year, Ruby Rose ended up in three different movie sequels which was pretty fantastic as I love her style even if the Bellas were the main focus here. Of course, you also had John Lithgow sporting an Australian accent as Amy’s dad who “isn’t a very nice man”(quoting the line she uses to describe him).

Overall, Pitch Perfect 3 is quite a mixed basket but the musical elements are still there if you like these movies. The Bellas are still quite fun to watch and they get themselves into some serious trouble and Amy really steps up. At the same time, Its the right time to wrap this whole thing up and they do it really well in the credits with what looks like bloopers and extras from the production of the three movies together which is a nice path down memory lane.

What A Girl Wants (2003)

what a girl wants

Director: Dennie Gordon

Cast: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth, Kelly Preston, Eileen Atkins, Anna Chancellor, Jonathan Pryce, Oliver James, Christina Cole

An American teenager learns that her father is a wealthy British politician running for office. Although she is eager to find him, she realizes it could cause a scandal and cost him the election. – IMDB

If you put together a dash of Mamma Mia (review) and then adds in a dose of The Princess Diaries, you will get something like What A Girl Wants but maybe a little less refined. Rightfully so because this was movie before Lovewrecked (review) earlier than the movie that I knew Amanda Bynes from, She’s All That. However, it does feel that Amanda Bynes always has that same type of character that she played really well in the 2000s teen movies that just seemed to work for her. Along with that, she did have Colin Firth playing her father with does boost this movie a little despite its rather run of the mill story.

With that said, Amanda Bynes plays Daphne, an American teenager who ends up reaching out to his British wealthy politician father who doesn’t know he exists. While she doesn’t want to lose her unique personality and herself in this new world, she soon realizes that to exist in her father’s world, she may have to in this part fish out of water story as well with adapting to some of the British terms and upper class etiquette. Colin Firth playing her father actually is an opposite type of character who is more reserved and contains his feelings and affection as well but soon also shows the side of him that Daphne’s mother loved, especially as the whole secret of who broke apart her parents in the first place comes to light and a few secret motives, that are actually quite obvious reveals itself.

There’s not a whole lot to say about What A Girl Wants. For people who like Amanada Bynes, this should fit the bill as its an earlier roles of more popular roles like She’s The Man but its still very much her style of humor and acting. At the same time, there are some very predictable moments and the script isn’t that great but it has some fun moments and Amanda Bynes’ character Daphne has some good empowering characteristics that I did like. Some good, some bad, I’d say its somewhere in the middle: pretty much one to save for a rainy day.

Thats it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two films?

TV Binge: Put Your Head on My Shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光, 2019)

Put Your Head on My Shoulder (致我们暖暖的小时光, 2019)

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Cast: Fair Xing, Lin Yi, Daddi Tang, Zheng Ying Chen, Zhou Zi Xin, Yi Sha, Zhou Jun Wei, Zhang Hao Lun, Jie Bing

As Si Tu Mo’s graduation is nearing, she is confused about her future plans. She tries out all sorts of things all the time and is unable to make her own decisions. Her ordinary days are suddenly shaken up when the genius Physics student Gu Wei Yi appears in her life. The two accidentally end up living together and chaos begins. – MyDramaList

Watch on YouTube or Netflix (as of December 11, 2019):

QUOTES/SCENE

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

STORY

Set in the same universe as A Love So Beautiful (review) with some characters that actually overlap as they get mentioned in the little details here and there, Put Your Head on My Shoulder is an adaptation of a novel written by the same author as the previous one.

This world of stories is all about quick and light-hearted romance whether its boy chases girl or girl chases boy, more so the former in this case, which adds a lot of fun tidbits here because we have a genius scientist who doesn’t know much about the whole outside who ends up meeting a girl who is almost the opposite of him but bubbly and positive. Just as she learns how to face up to her own future, her appearance changes him as he starts doing the silliest of things to get her attention including a lot of searches for weird tips from the internet. While the story itself is fairly generic as most of these TV dramas tend to be, this one has some fun surprises in simply highlighting the awkward mind of a scientist when met with love. It also is a step further into the future as this one sees the two in their final year of university and getting ready to head into the work life or pursuing higher education.

LENGTH/PACING

Episodes: 24
Episode length: 45 mins approx.

Put Your Head On My Shoulder has the perfect formula for being a good length in episodes and series length. Its one that has enough episodes to create good pacing for both its leads and still have time for the supporting characters to have their stories and adds enough depth to care but never drags on with any element of their life as the scenes progress just like the relationships and the feelings for each other.

And if you think that this 24 episodes isn’t enough, you can even watch an extra story here (which isn’t available on the Netflix version):

CHARACTER/CHEMISTRY

Situ Mo & Gu Wei Yi

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

The main focus for the show is the two main leads, Mo Situ (Fair Xing) and Wei Yi Gu (Yi Lin). These two steal the show because of not only their chemistry with each other but the fact that they both are peculiar but also very fun characters that stand well alone and makes things even more sweet or hilarious whenever they are together. In many ways, they are the typical opposites attract because Gu Wei Yi is just an introvert scientist/researcher who is very set in his own ways whereas faced with Fair Xing’s more direct and noisy attitude and completely not interested in his scientific knowledge that it becomes this curious discovery that brings a lot of joy into his life and it challenges the side of him that wants to keep learning more about her and the way she acts. It brings in a lot of funny awkward moments in after episode snippets (just like A Love So Beautiful) and also more and more cute and sweet moments as they start finding their rhythm together.

Wang Shan & Fu Pei

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Being roommates and best friends of the previous couple, this relationship became the aftermath of the beginning of Fu Pei and Mo Situ’s friendship and possible relationship that never happened and in the process brought forth this friendship and eventual feelings for each other. The supporting relationship is very much in the background but these two characters actually are the one that is the bridge to A Love So Beautiful and builds the link together. These two have a different type and style of relationship and while its not completely necessary, it has its fun moments.

Parents, Friends and Love Interests

As with more dramas and their relationships, the use of their parents and the various personalities is a staple. In this case, they both have a very opposite type of personality while each of them both hoping that they could both be together, a rather open-minded concept for Chinese parents to let single young adults (boy and girl) but its a nice change in times sort of parents which is pretty fun most of the time to watch as they aren’t that frequently used here.

Put Your Head on My Shoulder

However, the funniest bits of the show does go to the other scientists at the lab, Lei Zhou (Hao Lun Zhang) & Professor Jiang (Jie Bing) helping Wei Yi Gu with his romantic problems as they usually just make it worse and think too alike for Mo Situ to understand their intentions. The three become this bromance bond that truly has so many comedic moments that adds into the fun.

Put Your Head On My Shoulder

Of course, what drama would be complete without even the slightest form of someone trying to come between the relationship even if its only at the literal slightest level of interest as Mo Situ starts her internship and ends up being the main assistant on set for any advertisement related by this growing star, ZhiCun Lin (Jun Wei Zhou). He never becomes quite the intrusion and was relatively underused but still the scenes with him were still rather fun.  On the side note, I really do like Jun Wei Zhou quite a bit from this first acting gig and really hope that he will have more of this although he’s more in the psychological analysis (as that’s his academic forte and his part in Dream Space) as well as singing or songwriting or something of the sort.

OVERALL

Much like its previous series set in the same world, Put Your Head On My Shoulder is a feel-good series. Its positive and down to earth. Its not exactly doing anything too different but the writers who put together the character of Wei Yi Gu really did try to get into a mind of being the awkward scientist who sees the world in a new light because of this girl that suddenly ends up housing with him and awakening some feelings and learning about a world other than one where he runs his own life. Its fun and sweet and comedic and well-balanced. Its one that can be watched over and over again and just feel all happy to see these two whether together or apart or as friends as well as those supporting roles around them, who all add a little something.

MAIN THEME

Double Feature: Lady Bird (2017) & A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)

DOUBLEFEATURE (76)

Welcome back to Double Features! Its been a crazy 2 months or so of festival season so double features has been tucked in the back. Its December so also time for the festive films to start. Slim pickings most of the time so this time, we’ll be having a little mix and mash of festive films, Marvel/Disney/Pixar last hurrah before they leave Netflix month in December. The first taste of Christmas films, A Cinderalla Story: Christmas Wish is paired with Lady Bird, a movie that I saw was expiring on Netflix this month as well.

Let’s check it out!

Lady Bird (2017)

Lady Bird

Director (and writer): Greta Gerwig

Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedge, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Lois Smith, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Odeya Rush, Jordan Rodrigues, Marielle Scott

In 2002, an artistically inclined seventeen-year-old girl comes of age in Sacramento, California. – IMDB

I always wonder why I put off watching movies for so long because Lady Bird had been on Netflix for quite a while. Being a huge fan of Saoirse Ronan (and I have a few more of her films to catch up on), there’s something truly fun about this one. I love coming of age films especially with girls and then 2002 was also my graduating year in high school so all the things from posters to style to lingo all became very nostalgic especially with all the feelings of finding the path and future, romance and friends.

Lady Bird, as her character calls herself instead of her given name Christine, tackles all of these things with her somewhat of a drama queen personality and a determination to do whatever she can to get what she wants regardless of the consequences which she will deal with afterwards. She’s a bit of a reckless character without actually realizing that she is in many cases. In the struggle between trying to break free from Sacramento and get to the East coast much to her mother’s disagreement and always being inconsiderate on how much she dislikes her current situation whether the place or constantly thinking that her mother doesn’t like her, its a bit sad to watch this character try to find love and care. Saoirse Ronan takes on this role with so much charisma. There’s this over the top and bizarre sort of character that Lady Bird is that no one else understands who she is and she tries to act very confident about who she is and yet there’s this extremity to her and it starts right off the bat when an argument with her mother in the car results in her plunging out of the moving car. That sets the tone of this mother and daughter relationship right from that moment between these strong characters.

Lady Bird focuses primarily on the family dynamic of Christine and her family especially the mother and daughter relationship and the desire of breaking free from a place to pursue her dreams and wanting to be acknowledged that she can be more than she is and the acceptance and having someone to share those grand dreams. In the process of finding who are her true friends and what the value of love is in her mind (or how little it matters to others). There’s this greatness of how her character is presented that makes those genuine moments even easier to connect with. Everyone on this part of her last year of senior high sets her in the right direction to her future and finding the confidence to be herself and mending or expressing herself .

Lady Bird is a really great movie. All the pieces from performances to the time to the different experiences she goes through and the coming of age moment when she finally embraces who she is is a journey and one that is a mix of drama and comedy that connects really well.

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish

Director (and co-writer): Michelle Johnston

Cast: Laura Marano, Gregg Sulkin, Isabella Gomez, Lilian Doucet-Hope, Johannah Newmarch, Chanelle Peloso, Barclay Hope, Garfield Wilson

Its really hard to believe that A Cinderella Story is a film franchise at this point with this latest film, A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish as its fifth film. While I completely am behind the first one original A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray which is a fun one to watch even now, and can relatively get into its second one with Selena Gomez. Skipped the third one mostly because it wasn’t available and I didn’t want to buy it and then watched the fourth one (review) which was very disappointing and now we get to this one…and I ask myself why I put myself through these things. I didn’t think it could get worse than the last one but it really is.

The performances are completely wooden. The story has nothing new to it and simply predictable. Even the whole evil stepmother and stepsisters were really uninspiring like it didn’t really matter to whoever made this one either. Not to mention, not much of it logically made sense even in how a girl becomes unidentifiable with a pink wig and pointy elf ears and an elf costume and not some kind of special makeup or anything.

Its really hard to get behind this one. I’m trying to find something good about it but I don’t know what to say. It is set during Christmas so the Christmas setting is nice, I guess. These just need to stop (and I don’t say this very often about the worst of franchises).  Maybe the pretty leads and some of their musical numbers (there is one that was okay) could appeal to someone maybe younger than myself. Sometimes, we just outgrow these things I guess.

That’s it for this double feature!
We kick off the Christmas month with a rather lacking movie but hey, its only going to go up from here (probably just jinxed myself). 

Have you seen any of these movies? Thoughts?

Double Feature: Mary Poppins Returns (2018) & Tall Girl (2019)

DOUBLEFEATURE

The last double feature before the horror month is this one! As I try to work through some of the Disney movies on Netflix before it leaves, I managed to get in Mary Poppins Returns and then paired it up with something that I ended up watching as a multitasking film and it was the rather new Netflix Originals, Tall Girl.

Let’s check it out!

Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

mary poppins returns

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davis, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Jeremy Swift, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Dick Van Dyke, Angela Lansbury

Decades after her original visit, the magical nanny returns to help the Banks siblings and Michael’s children through a difficult time in their lives. – IMDB

Arguably, a lot of the Disney remakes or sequels feels unnecessary and the same goes for Mary Poppins Returns. However, while it is unnecessary, Mary Poppins Returns still achieves quite a fun family adventure. It follows a lot of the same formula as the original in terms of the events and even using some of the same lines in reference. It all helps link the two together even if the setting is decades apart and Mary Poppins isn’t the same actress and the children in the original are all grown up and the children in this one are the children of Michael Banks of the original. In all those elements, it does build a good bridge between the two and holds a lot of the essence of the original even if it still doesn’t have the same charm as the first one.

What does change in this one are the songs. All the songs are different from start to finish even if say what used to be the Chim Chimeree song is another sequence with streetlight leeries (is that what its called?) and they do the big dance number also . Then the bird lady is replaced by the balloon lady portrayed as cameo by Angela Lansbury. Dick Van Dyke comes back not as his original role but as another cameo role as well. Not to mention, Colin Firth comes in as a supporting role as well. Some of the other changes is adding in a bit of romance for its characters. Of course, the biggest change is Emily Blunt playing Mary Poppins which was always a question of how it would change. While she doesn’t have quite the same charm as Julie Andrews, she does hold up her own. In fact, this role is so different from other roles she’s done (that I’ve seen) that it actually surprised me in a good way and I really enjoyed her take of Mary Poppins plus they still gave her some sharp dialogue and replies.

Mary Poppins Returns might not be necessary but its still a fun family film with some decent music and characters that I wouldn’t mind watching a few times (not hard since I’ve already watched it one more time afterwards). All in all, a pleasant surprise!

Tall Girl (2019)

Tall Girl

Director: Nzingha Stewart

Cast: Ava Michelle, Griffin Gluck, Sabrina Carpenter, Paris Berelc, Luke Eisner, Clara Wilsey, Angela Kinsey, Steve Zahn, Rico Paris, Bria Condon

Jodi, the tallest girl in her high school, has always felt uncomfortable in her own skin. But after years of slouching, being made fun of, and avoiding attention at all costs, Jodi finally decides to find the confidence to stand tall. – IMDB

Netflix Originals teen movies are usually a big bet to take. So far, I’ve really only liked the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and was alright with Sierra Burgess is a Loser (which really doesn’t hold us as much when you think more about it). In many ways, the issues with Sierra Burgess are pretty much the same ones that apply here. Teen romances have that really big issue with making girls always question their own self-confidence when they want to get the attention of a guy they like when they should be confident about themselves and their physical appearances, in this case, its her height, which constantly gets mocked by the people in school.

In the case of Tall Girl, the characters go through a weird character arc that everyone ends up going through this segment in their story where they are very hard to root for and somehow find their way back, of course whether its too late is the question for whatever situation they are tackling. While Tall Girl does have a few okay things and the better ones is how it chooses to end and the more inspirational speech that the main character Jodi talks about as she embraces her confidence and feels confident with her height.

Tall Girl just feels shallow and hollow. All the characters aren’t too deep and the story is rather formulaic and predictable. Its a story about finding your self-confidence and facing your feelings sort of deal, which is pretty basic but has a few good messages to share. What its trying to share has good intentions but just the execution and the script and some of the acting left a lot to be desired.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Mary Poppins Returns and/or Tall Girl?